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Q&A: Do You Use Your Own Name?
Or are you someone else when you write?
Hi friends, I hope you’re doing well today. I’m getting by, slogging along, and ever grateful to my friends. I wrote about them last week on Constant Commoner. These days are confusing; I’m still awash with red tape, still nervous about decision-making on my own, still trying to get used to life alone.
But I’ve been reading and writing, and ideas for stories are jostling for attention, each wanting me to get to it and finish them already. That’s the hard part. Finishing them. Starting them is great fun—as you well know.
I’m following politics, of course, and if I’m distressed about my own life I’m terrified for my country. We’re all writing about it—those of us who have a habit of writing about it—and, as usual, the topic of pseudonyms comes up. Those who don’t use their own names can’t understand why anyone would. Those of us who use our real names might have our moments of hesitation but, for the most part, we’re comfortable with it.
I wrote this piece when I still had my political blog and was writing mostly political pieces there and at other liberal websites. I still don’t see a need to go undercover, no matter what I write, and here I talk about why that is.
As always, if you like what your read here, let me know by clicking on the star, or, better yet, hit the ‘subscribe’ button at the end. And, since you’re here, how about joining in on the conversation? You know you have an opinion!
Why I Use My Own Name
And why it’s okay if you don’t
When I began ranting online, way back when GWB/Cheney/Rumsfeld lied us into a disastrous war with Iraq, I used a phony name. I was ‘GoodGracia’ for a combination of reasons, but I used it mainly to piss off the people I knew would be going after me for my anti-war, anti-Bush stance. It was just pretentious and naive enough. (Gracia is my middle name, btw.)
I kept it going for several years, until I finally got brave enough to drop it, thanks to some of my fellow writers on Dagblog (where I’m on the masthead), who had already established careers with mainstream outlets under their own names and had far more to lose but dropped their pseudonyms and started writing under their own names.
The thought of using my own name was terrifying. I hesitated for a long time, enjoying my cover, where I could say anything I wanted and nobody could come back at me with insults that would stick. Because they weren’t attacking me, they were attacking her.
When I started my political blog, Ramona’s Voices in January, 2009, I allowed myself to become “Ramona”, but with no accompanying info that might give me away beyond that first name. I kept any personal mention at an absolute minimum, fearing someone would figure it out and come after me. I thought, too, that hiding my real identity made my writing better. Writing under my own name would be like writing naked — which might be okay for some but not for someone who locks the bathroom door, even when no one is home.
But I did it because, at some point, I wanted the writer who wrote that piece to be me. I wanted to take the credit or the blame for it. Either way, I wanted to own every piece I wrote and, in my own mind, I couldn’t do it being her.
I wanted every piece to come from Ramona Grigg. But that took some getting used to, since I’ve been ‘Mona’ to my friends all of my life. I’m never felt like a ‘Ramona’, even when I used it as part of my blog name, but I’m Ramona now and I’m finally getting used to it.
Is it still terrifying? No. Not at all. I’m a woman whose days ahead will be marked in years (if I’m lucky) and not in decades. I’m not afraid of much anymore. Not even of my real name. I want my name to be a part of who I am, and, oddly, I feel more liberated now that I’m using it full time. For me, my real name is a part of my authenticity. I’m mainly an opinionist, a political writer, and everything about me has to feel honest. My name is a part of that.
But it’s not for everyone and we have to be okay with that. Pseudonyms, stage names, pen names, handles, and usernames have been with us long before Mary Ann Evans became George Eliot, or Samuel Clemens became Mark Twain, or Moishe Shegal became Marc Chagall.
And we still don’t know who Banksy is.
Many online personalities thrive under a username. Some eventually come out, but others go their entire careers as that name they chose so long ago. There is nothing as personal as a name, whether it’s the one you were born with or the one you invented because it suits you better.
But if you’re still stewing over which name to use, in the end it comes down to the content of your writing, and how much of your personal life you want to expose. Nobody can decide that for you. There’s nothing wrong with either choice, as long as you’re comfortable with who you are.
So let’s talk about this. Do you use your own name? No? Why not? Do you use two different names, depending on what you write? How important is it, anyway?
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